Sunday, November 7, 2010

Alabama GOP taps leaders for Legislature

Published: Friday, November 05, 2010, 5:30 AM ??? Updated: Friday, November 05, 2010, 6:23 AM
MONTGOMERY -- State Senate and House Republicans did something Thursday they haven't done since just after the Civil War, they picked the two men likely to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives and president pro tem of the Senate.
? House Republicans picked 48-year-old Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn. Hubbard, a 12-year veteran of the House, is a power within the GOP. For the past six years, he has served as minority leader in the House and for the past three years he has served as state chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

? Over in the Senate, Republicans chose as the next pro tem 54-year-old Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston. He, too, is a 12-year veteran of the Legislature.

? The full Legislature will vote on the two leadership positions in January. With the GOP now holding large majorities in the House and Senate, both men are expected to get the two key jobs.
? The House decision to pick Hubbard came after Gov.-elect Robert Bentley spoke to the 62 Republicans and recommended they choose him as speaker and Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood for the No.¤2 spot in the House, speaker pro tem.
? DeMarco, like Hubbard, had quietly campaigned for the speaker post for months. Both men met with Bentley at his home Wednesday in an effort to head off what looked like a potentially nasty fight over the speaker position.

? Hubbard has had strong support from the pro-business wing of the GOP, an element that backed Bentley rival Bradley Byrne in the GOP primary. DeMarco, who supported Bentley in the Republican primary, has had the support of House members who generally are seen as more concerned about social issues.

? Bentley told representatives that, while it was their decision who the next speaker would be, he had come to the conclusion that Hubbard was most deserving.

? "Nobody has worked harder than Mike Hubbard to make what happened Tuesday for Republicans a reality. He deserves the chance to be speaker," Bentley said.

? Bentley recommended DeMarco for the pro tem spot, calling him "probably the smartest man in the House."

? However, after the doors were closed and Bentley had gone, the group unanimously voted for Hubbard but decided to wait until they meet again in December to pick a pro tem. Newly elected members said they needed more time to consider the pro tem position.

? DeMarco said little following the meeting. "We go forward and we'll see what happens," he said.

? Asked if he was disappointed that Bentley's recommendation was not followed, DeMarco paused, then said, "There was an anticipation that, yes, we had a deal and one of us would be speaker and the other pro tem."

? Rep. Arthur Payne of Trussville, who supported DeMarco for the top job, was not happy after the meeting.

? "We believed we had a deal that Mike would be speaker and Paul pro tem, but the Steering Committee asked that more time be given, that new members elected Tuesday wanted more time and that's really funny because Rep. DeMarco is a member of the Steering Committee and he knew nothing about any meeting by the committee."

? Hubbard said his top priority as speaker will be ethics reform and legislation that would help businesses put Alabamians back to work and jumpstart the economy.

? Marsh's selection as pro tem gives him the most powerful post in the Senate. Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, was named as the Senate's new majority leader.

? Marsh also is from the pro-business wing of the party and is beginning his fourth term in the Alabama Legislature.

? "We've got to get people back to work," Marsh said. "We've got to deal with economic development and job creation. That is the No. 1 issue."

? Marsh said ethics reform also is a top priority. "The people are demanding it this time. And we want to address that and are eager to do so," Marsh said.

? Marsh and Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, both sought the pro tem position.

? "I think Del's seniority, his experience, his activity in the Republican fundraising efforts probably gave him an edge," Waggoner said. "Scott Beason was an excellent candidate. He will be in a leadership role."

? Marsh also said Beason will serve in a leadership position. Beason said he's slated to become chairman of the Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation.

? Marsh and Waggoner said the new House and Senate majorities that won after many Democrats were voted out of office are under intense pressure to prove they can govern differently.

? "If we don't deliver you could see the same thing happen to us in four years that happened to the Democrats this year," Marsh said.

Kim Chandler contributed to this story.

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